How to encourage young writers

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Being able to write is a hugely rewarding activity and opens up doors for children, helping them to express themselves and make sense of the world around them. However, learning to write is a complex skill.

Before children start to use pens, pencils and crayons to make marks they need to build up gross motor muscle skills. Without the gross motor skills (large muscle groups), the fine motor skills (small muscle groups) will not be able to develop. You can support this by providing plenty of physical activities. Using the climbing frame is as good way of building these important gross motor muscles to help in the process of the child being able to write.

As a practitioner, you can also develop these gross motor skills by encouraging children to dance and use their upper bodies, especially moving their arms to the music. If you watch “Write Dance”, you’ll see the children are learning to do letter and number movements in the air. They think they’re having fun and don’t realise that they’re also learning how letters and numbers are formed!

Here are some activities to develop children’s fine motor skills:

  • Use sand or foam in a tough tray to encourage the children to use their fingers and hands to trace patterns in the sand or foam
  • Encourage the children to use pegs, tweezers and Lego pieces to develop those fine motor skills

In addition to developing fine motor skills, you can consider:

  • Providing plenty of high-quality materials that children can engage with whenever they feel like it. Stock your rooms full of pens, pencils, crayons, whiteboards and paper. Children who have the freedom and opportunity to make marks and draw are more likely to engage in the process of writing.
  • Reading out loud to children often, and with enthusiasm. Reading helps children become familiar with a variety of different texts and genres. They become more enjoyable and engaging if you vary the intonation and loudness of your voice, get into character, and have fun with it! It’s also important to have letters and numbers displayed inside and outside of the setting so that the children can “see” how the letters are formed.   
  • Choosing a book or books that the child can relate to on some level. If the child can relate to the main character or characters, this encourages empathy and can help broaden their repertoire of emotion-rich vocabulary.

  • Pausing at pivotal moments in the book to reflect on/discuss what’s happened. Give children a chance to express or discuss their initial reactions, predictions and responses to the plot as it unfolds. Make reading a two-way process which you explore together.
  • Supporting parents with their child’s literacy development. Children’s starting points and fine motor skills will all be vastly different when they start at your setting. Some children will be lucky enough to come from homes where they are exposed to an expressive, language-rich environment. Others may not. Model reading in your setting as an important daily activity and share tips with parents so they can support their children’s reading and writing skills at home.

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